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Sestets: Poems

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  81 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Sestets is the nineteenth book from one of the country’s most acclaimed poets, a masterpiece of formal rigor and a profound meditation on nature and mortality. It is yet another virtuosic showcase for Charles Wright’s acclaimed descriptive powers, and also an inquiry into the nature of description itself, both seductive and dangerous: “a virtual world/ Unfit for the virtuo ...more
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published March 31st 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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I very much enjoyed these poems, also because they were all of six lines, but mostly because Charles Wright wrote them. I don’t think this collection as a whole was as stunning as some of his other books, but it was still excellent. Very gracefully written. I dogeared many pages - things I loved and things I argued with.

I also enjoyed the titles, such as “As the Train Rolls Through, I Remember an Old Poem,” which begins -

Well, here we are again, old friend, Ancient of Days,
Eyeball to eyeball.

James Murphy
This little book was my introduction to Charles Wright. I'll almost certainly be reading more of his work. I understand his poetry can sometimes be journal-like with multiple themes. The compact gems of Sestets aren't at all like that. These 6-line poems have a Zen feel to them, but their modest look on the page is deceptive. The page's emptiness seems to emphasize vacancies while at the same time the words insist there's a balance between what is and what isn't so that a change here affects the ...more
These 6-line poems are exquisite in phrasing and imagery, almost too beautiful to talk about. Each of these 69 sestets (notice the repetition and upside-down repetition of "6") is a marvel of poise: sound and silence; text and white space; the pain of longing and the peace of acceptance; the here and the not-here. And they are poised also between the sestet and the missing companion of the sonnet's sestet, the octave. That is, many of the 6 poetic lines are stepped-down into 8 or 9 typographical ...more
Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
published in The Brooklyn Rail:
Charles Wright, Sestets
(Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2009)

These are poems of dusk, not aubades or paeans to the noonday sun. They are adieus feeling their way past the “blank page of sundown sky.” At 70, Charles Wright is among our most august poets. His poetry comes “as close as we can come / To divinity, the language that circles the earth / and which we can never speak.”

Descriptions of his beloved Southland set the stage for sage, six-line meditations. Using verb
Future Tense

"All things in the end are bittersweet—
An empty gaze, a little way-station just beyond silence.

If you can’t delight in the everyday,
you have no future here.

And if you can, no future either.

And time, black dog, will sniff you out,
and lick your lean cheeks,
And lie down beside you—warm, real close—and will not move."


Patrick Mcgee
This is the first Charles Wright collection I have read. All I have to say is "Wow!" As I understand it, this collections is a departure from his more standard (longer) poetry, but it definitely didn't lack power. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and I think it would be a great place for any poetry fan to start if they want to check out Wright's work. Highly recommended.
Some truly great lines in this collection. But the short poems may not allow Wright to find his stride the way he has in other volumes.

Some of the poems were quite funny and sly, which was a delight.

Hearing him read from the book on the New York Review of Books podcast shouldn't be missed, though.
Gerry LaFemina
What's not to like about Charles Wright--nothing. Though the six line form gets old after awhile and emphasizes, perhaps, the limiting nature of having a voice that's gone unchanged for twenty-five years no matter how beautiful it is.
Wright is a professor at UVA. His poems are short and there is one on each page. Like many other poets he writes about nature in many poems. He also uses many Biblical and classical literature references.
James Smith
Another marvelous collection of poems from Charles Wright. Read my review article, "Show Me the World," at Comment magazine.
The old coot's still got it. First two-thirds of SESTETS seems stronger than the finish, as if Wright slips out of consciousness with nightfall on the mountainside.
Bought and read this today. The labor behind these poems is clearly expressed, and Wright's explanations for the universe are beautiful and accurate as always.
Mar 12, 2013 Cone added it
A master of economy. Love Charles Wright.....
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